Friday, December 16, 2016

New Bonds Are Being Forged Between Japan And Russia

While the White House and many politicians in Washington are busy echoing President Obama's disdain for Russian President Vladimir Putin calling him a thug and a bully, across the water an important ally is busy meeting with Putin and forming closer ties. On December 12th Japan's trade minister reported his country's economic relations with Russia have grown more smoothly than political ties and about 30 joint projects are ready to be signed regardless of a breakthrough in territorial issues. Trade minister Hiroshige Seko said that a final decision on the projects is up to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Japan.

New Bonds Are Being Forged
The new bonds being forged between Japan and Russia come after meetings late in the week, the leaders are expected to agree on an economic cooperation package worth some 300 billion yen ($2.5 billion), including private-sector projects such as joint mine development and loans for natural gas exploration. This all comes as Japan and Russia wrap up a summit aimed at making progress on a peace treaty to formally end World War II. The two countries still have unresolved issues over four islands off Japan's northern coast that were seized by the Soviet Union in 1945 in the closing days of the war. Abe said they had a "frank" exchange of views and although they announced no major progress, the two discussed ways to cooperate economically in the disputed area.

Known as the Southern Kurils in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan, the islands have prevented the two sides from fully putting the conflict behind them. The summit is the latest attempt to reach an agreement since Japan and the former Soviet Union began discussions in 1956. Putin, who is accomplished in the Japanese martial art of judo, has said he sees the lack of a peace treaty as an "anachronism" and wants to resolve the issue. Abe has looked to win concessions by dangling the prospect of major Japanese investment in front of Moscow, which is mired in economic crisis amid falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Crimea and Ukraine.

The two leaders discussed working together on the economic development of the islands and ways to make it easier for Japanese former residents, whose average age is 81 to visit Japan. The two leaders called for experts to find ways to achieve joint exploitation of the territory, citing "fishing, tourism, culture, and medicine". Ironically, this is all taking place as America's leadership is actively engaged in vilifying Putin and raging against Russia and the new President elects views towards normalizing the relationship between the two nations. 

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